I wrote this poem after watching live reportage from a protest last nigh, after curfew. The protest took place outside a police station in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The protest followed a police-involved incident in that suburb. The police officer claims to have mistaken her gun for a taser. Her firing of the gun resulted in Daunte Wright’s death.
One of the reporters referred to the protesters as “unruly.” I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way, but that struck me as so infantilizing. As if the protesters were school children, scuffling in the school yard, fighting over who gets the ball.
It was in Minneapolis, that George Floyd was killed during his arrest. This set off Black Lives Matter protests across the nation and around the world.
On the very day of Daunte Wright’s shooting, in Minneapolis, a prosecutor was wrapping up his case. It was the trial of police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd. Much testimony was given by experts, hammering home the prosecution’s argument, that the police’s use of force was not reasonable.
I write this poem not from my own point of view, but from the point of view of a disinterested, un-interested white person, who doesn’t understand, why all these people are being so unruly and disturbing the peace. Just imagine the old granddad yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. Even those who are willing to learn, or empathetic to the cause, having never experienced it themselves, have trouble, truly understanding the deep-rooted and justified anger of people of color. Incidents like these only magnify and provoke this anger, again and again.
But I hope that more of us will try to be more understanding, than my narrator appears to be.
Citizen videos, body cams and court cases like Chauvin’s are making it more and more difficult to remain ignorant, blind or indifferent to police misbehavior or carelessness, even when such behavior fits the full force of the term police brutality. It is harder and harder to deny the disproportionate impact of such misbehavior on people of color.
Still, Chauvin, like every accused American, deserves a fair trial. And I hope we will all make sure he gets one.
My sympathies to the families and communities everywhere, involved in this painful process.
Now, what’s all this commotion?
Please tell me, what’s the fuss?
There’s people, swarming in the streets–
This mob cannot be us!
You tell me there’s a curfew–
The crowd should all go home!
How dare they show such disrespect!
Just leave those cops alone!
A fence has been erected.
Beyond, a line of cops.
I see some dressed for riots,
Some, for military ops.
As people shake the fencing,
Reporters stream the feed:
A hostile individual
Assaults our ears with screed;
A girl pours milk upon her face,
And wipes her glassy tears;
The crowd stampedes in clouds of gas;
Returns, to face their fears.
What do they hope will happen?
What point could all this make?
What do they plan to do?
“Whatever it may take.”
It’s shocking, and insulting to
Heroic men in blue!
if by mistake,
When tasing, bullets did ensue?
And down the road, a prosecutor
Beats the truth to death:
It’s not ok to kill a man,
By kneeling on his neck.
Copyright 2021 Andrea LeDew
For a poem about a suburban woman who seems equally clueless on the topic of Black Lives Matter, read Provincial.
For a poem paraphrasing Raphael Warnock’s speech on voting rights legislation, read A Vote.